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Abstract

This article is a qualitative study of the lives of homeless elders in Boston. It examines the concerns uppermost in the minds of the homeless including the art of integrating their past lives into the values and milieu of their current homeless situation. Concern about the reinstitutionalization of the mentally ill in public shelters, domiciles once reserved for the older alcoholic, the pressures and stress of shelter life, victimization, the shrinking supply of SRO units, and the role of alcohol are also examined. Considered in detail are various coping strategies and supports utilized by older adults in their survival roofless. Homelessness as an industry is considered, and recommendations are offered to stem the increasing tide of homelessness among older adults. The article also critiques current public policy, which is preoccupied with shelter services rather than with services to the homeless. To adequately serve the entire homeless population, a policy on homelessness rather than solely a shelter policy must be developed.

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